Monday, January 29, 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Administering Discipline

One big mistake any parent makes is overreacting when it comes to discipline. Parents who are squeezed for time and energy often try hard to solve discipline problems all at once. Add the emotional complexity of being in a stepfamily to the mix, and you've yourself a real challenge.

Here are a few reminders for administering discipline:

1. 99% of everything does not need to be solve in the next 10 minutes.

2. Discipline is a process, not an instance.

3. Relationship is the key to discipline.

4. Discipline is an educational process meant to form good habits.

5. Good discipline forms trust while overdone discipline kills trust.

Monday, January 22, 2007


We've talked a lot this month about the challenges of stepfamily life from different perspectives. Everyone has his or her own view of hte life of a stepfamily and vary different experiences as well.

With all of htis variety within one stepfamily, it could be said that there is not one stepfamily, there is one stepfamily for every person and relationship involved. Think about it. You are not merely a man or a woman; you may also be a parent, a stepparent, a spouse, a legal negotiator, breadwinner (whether your kids are with you or not), time management expert, peace-maker (who doesn't make as much peace as you deserve), an "ex" perhaps, and a lot of other things. Each relationship you have requires different demands from you. Balancing these complex and sometimes impossible relationships, however, is essential

How? How does one balance on this tightrope while rotten fruit is being tossed at you?

First of all, balance is the discipline of self-control. That sounds really trite until you compare it to what most people do. Most people would rather control everything but themselves. Control relationships, control work issues, control the weather, control everything that has an influence on their lives - except themselves.
The surest way to stress, pain, and perhpas even insanity is controlling everything else in your life. Seek first to control yourself, your responses to whatever happens in your life. Thi sis not to say avoid trying to influence situations, but rather it is to say do not stake your measure of success or peace on the world doing what you want it to do. You'll fail always.
Self-control is a discipline that challenges the mind, the emotions, and the body. Self-control is difficult, but generous. When you find balance through self-control, peace shows up and greets you with gifts.
Do not waste time waiting for the world to relent; instead, accept yourself in the context you occupy. Start there. Then try to influence the world. Conqueroring yourself is more important then conquering the world.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Superman and Kryptonite: Stepfathers and power

I know that we were in love when we got married. In fact, I know we still are in love. However, I can't help but feel like I was supposed to come in and bring order to this family. And yet it seems like everything I do is counered, denied, defied, or invisible.

When Bozo ran off with another woman, Sherry was left with three kids, a part time job, and a mortgage the size of Texas. She needed a hero and there I was - Superman.

First of all, I had a job that brings in the bread. Second, she was getting run over by the kids. They're not bad kids, but when dad runs off with a bimbo, they're going to have to take their rage out on someone. Mom was the nearest target. She needed someone with the authority and courage to confront her kids. Well, there I came to the rescue. I'd slam dunked dozens of business deals, stared down compeitors without blinking, and found my way up the ladder of suceess. How hard could it be to whip three kids into shape?

Well, if we're looking for easy, then I'd take corporate America every day if the week. These kids have power. I have no authority in their lives. It doesn't matter how good I am to them or their mother; it doesn't matter that their own father is as worthless as they come. In fact, the only power I have in their lives is the power they give me.

Geez, this seems so backwards. But I guess parenting and stepparenting are not the same.

There is a lot of pressure on stepfathers to pull off miralces. They often offer the family financial stability, a sense of control and authprity, and a male figure in the household. All is hoped to be well once stepdad assumes his position. And yet, sometimes for all of the power the stepdad has, when it comes to stepfathering, he can feel like Superman next to a chunk of kryptonite - powerless.

After an initial valiant effort (which usually falls flat), it can be very tempting to either crank up the heat an become hyper-authoritarian or shrink back and become a non-factor. Either way is tempting yes, but not effective.

Stepfathers should do the following:
1. Assume authority slowly, as it is earned.

2. Maintain balance in engagement. Not too much engagement and not too little.

3. Assume the necessity of flexibility. The kids will want you some days and not others.

4. Honor the fact that the kids and mom had a relationship that predates you.

5. Even if dad is a scumbag, he is still dad. Respect that fact even if you cannot find it within yourself to respect him as a man.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Dodging Tomatoes

When you take on the huge and noble task of being a stepmother, there are going to be critics. It would be nice if the critics were strangers from half a world away who you never had contact with, but truth it, sometimes they are close by. Sometimes they are the very people you are trying to love and serve and please.

A comment from the post Stepmom in the Middle, plugged scripture worth reading. Nehemiah chapter 4 in a nutshell shows the ridicule Nehemiah and the people of God went through when they are trying to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. This mockery rests in the context of something bigger than the ridicule, the critique and the taunting. It was God's good plan moving forward. Nehemiah had to keep in mind the plan, not the critiques of the plan.

I think there is a great message for stepmoms in this passage. Go read it here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Let's Link

Are you a blogger who reads this blog? Let's link. Upon your request, I will link to you in my sidebar under BLOGROLL and in return, I'd love to be linked to you. Let's build our cybernetwork together.

All you need to do is comment here and ask to be linked and make sure you let me know where to link. Your blog does not have to be a Stepfamily blog - it just needs to be yours.

So what do you say? Deal or no deal?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stepmom in the middle

It takes everything I have to keep things together. I feel like I am pulled in ten different directions. But why should that be a surprise? I am the mom.

First of all, what is fair? Before becoming a stepmom all I had to deal with was being fair with my two daughters. Now adding a stepson and stepdaughter into the mix, I have no idea what fair is. If i treat all the kids the same, my kids feel betrayed, if I favor my kids, my stepchildren feel betrayed. I tried the route of being a "family" with "children," you know, without the "step" in there, but no one really cooperated with that too often.

Second, my husband, Gary, needs lots (too much) reassurance that I love him. He'ssuch a great guy and that's why I married him. But there are times when I wish he would just grow up. I feel like his mommy sometimes and that's a real drag on me.

Then there is his ex, the wicked witch of the universe. The fact that I ever have to take her into consideration is beyond me. I know she is the mother of my stepchildren, but she's always changing the schedule, missing appointments and always asking for money - my family's money. It drive me nuts.

This juggling act sometimes brings to the brink of a nervour breakdown. And yet, there are evenings when everyone is in bed and I sipping my last cup of decaf as I browse my favorite magazine and think that I have it pretty good. If I didn't havhe so many things needing my attention, then I would be all alone.

Stepmothers usually feel like they have more than they can handle in more directions than they can move. And yet, like heroes, they press on.

Any stepmoms want to share what an "average" day is in your life?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Stepchild in Transition

I hate changing. My stomach always squeezes into knots a couple hours before the switch. It doesn't matter if it is switching from mother to father or the other way. It's always bad. I hate it. I hate seeing them together, all pretending not to hate each other. Liars. I hate the McDonald's we make the switch at, I hate that they divorced. I hate that they couldn't pull it together.

Everytime we make the switch I have to smash the hope that wants to show up. Of course I still want them to get back together, but I know they never will. They can't. Dad's married that awful woman, Jenny, and mom's dating Creepy Jim. Yeah, but no one asks me my opinion - not for real anyway. It's not like I get a vote. I never get a vote.

Oh no, I never tell them how I feel. What good would it do? I just smile and pretend to be happy. It's not hard to fake them out. They're so hard up for me to be happy they'll settle for a fake smile and never really ask me how I'm doing. I don't like being fake, but what choice do I have. It's be fake and have a sense of peace or tell it like it is and be a problem. Seriously, would you do anything different?

Certainly the above monologue is not representative of every stepchild when contemplating the parent's divorce and remarriage and the switching of time with one parent to time with the other, but it would represent many feelings of many stepchildren.

Anger, powerlessness, trapped, needing to please - stepchildren have a lot to deal with on a regular basis.

What is important for parents and stepparents to keep in mind is not a heap of guilt. Instead, they should have a persistent sensitivity to their children's and stepchildren's needs. The kids need space be mad, express their feelings, and have lots of ups and downs. Suppressing the kid's feelings will only incite rebellion of make liars of them.

Yes, it's emotionally intensive work, but it's wort it.